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For Gwen Fletcher Memorial Award recipient, ongoing learning and self-improvement are the two keys that underpin Jacob McCudden’s CFP® approach to financial planning.
It was while studying his Bachelor of Business degree that Jacob McCudden CFP® was first drawn to the forward-looking and aspirational nature of financial planning. Unlike accounting, which he found a little more predictable, the young student was excited about financial planning, which provided him with the opportunity to formulate tailored solutions to help clients achieve their financial and lifestyle goals. It was a vocation that appealed to him.
Jacob doesn’t regret his decision to major in Financial Planning, and four years on since graduating from RMIT University, he has taken out the prestigious Gwen Fletcher Memorial Award for being the highest achieving student in Semester 2 of the CFP® Certification Unit for 2020, marking him as a young professional to watch.
“I knew I had worked hard with my studies and applied myself, but I never remotely thought about winning this award. By using the FPA study resources, like tutorials and chatrooms, I knew there were many other great financial planners studying just as hard as I was. So, I am immensely proud and humbled to receive this award,” Jacob says.
In congratulating Jacob on taking out the Gwen Fletcher Memorial Award, FPA CEO Dante De Gori CFP® acknowledged Jacob’s ongoing commitment to Gwen Fletcher’s legacy of improving the financial planning profession through education and higher professional standards.
You need to back yourself
Jacob – a financial planner at Back to Back Financial Planners, who service clients in Canberra, Young NSW and surrounding regions – first became aware of the CFP® Certification Program through his university studies. He instinctively knew that to be part of a professional community, he needed to adhere to the highest professional standards, which meant obtaining the CFP® designation.
“I saw the CFP® designation as a way of creating a point of difference between me and other financial planners, while demonstrating my commitment to higher and continuing learning, as well as professional standards,” he says. “I wanted to become an elite professional and I saw the CFP® Certification Program as the path to becoming one.”
However, he openly acknowledges that the path to becoming a CFP® professional is a challenging one, with the demands of juggling a full-time career, with personal life and studies, requiring considerable commitment and focus.
“I wish I had a great tip I could share with other students about completing the CFP® Certification Program, but other than good time management and focus, I don’t think there are any,” he jokes.
But press him a little harder, and he offers up three tips that helped him cope with balancing the pressures of study, career and family life:
Have a fixed study schedule and develop a consistent routine around your studies;
Commit time to studying and don’t procrastinate by putting your studies or assignments off. This is where time management kicks in. Don’t be overwhelmed by the coursework. Instead, break down your coursework into smaller study pieces that you can manage each week.
Make sure you actually want to do the program.
“When you’ve got a full-time job, the additional responsibility of studying can be difficult, particularly trying to find the motivation to do some coursework after a long and stressful day in the office,” he says. “But what worked well for me was having a clear study schedule on what I needed to be doing each week and ensuring I dedicated the required time to focus on my studies.”
A study routine was also important for Jacob, who believes that without one, “the weeks can get away quite quickly”. He adds: “You can then find yourself too far behind to cram in your study and catch up. That’s not practical if you want to successfully complete the CFP® Certification Program.”
However, perhaps Jacob’s best tip is his last one: only undertake the CFP® Certification Program if you really want to do the coursework.
“The reason I did the CFP® Certification Program is because I actually wanted to do the course and learn. So, I ensured I put enough time aside for my studies to get as much out of the coursework as I could. This way, I got the maximum value out of my studies,” he says.
And what about partner support?
“Oh, yes,” he laughs. “It helps to have a supportive partner! My beautiful wife, Rafaella, is Brazilian, and although my Portuguese language studies had to take a back seat while I completed the CFP® Certification Program, I look forward to being able to dedicate more time to them now as a ‘thank you’ to her.”
You can’t teach experience
Being named the Gwen Fletcher Memorial Award winner for Semester 2 is an achievement not lost on Jacob, who is a proud advocate of financial planning.
He acknowledges the leadership team at Back to Back Financial Planners and his previous mentors for their guidance and support. Jacob is particularly grateful for the practical workplace experience he has received over the past four years, which he says has significantly helped him as a professional.
“After university, most graduates join the profession with a good understanding of the technical and theoretical aspects of financial planning, but what really helped me develop as a professional was being around other planners and learning from what they do. This enabled me to improve my soft skills, like how to have better conversations with clients, which has allowed me to work more effectively with them,” he says.
“You can’t teach experience. You just need to be around good planners to see how advice works in the real world.”
And one of the best lessons Jacob has learnt by being around other practitioners is: ‘it’s all about people’.
“No matter what area of life – whether it’s work, social or study – the people you meet along the way and the connections you make are everything. That’s one of the best lessons I’ve learnt in life and it’s a lesson that I apply to my work as a financial planner everyday.”
Work hard on yourself
One of Jacob’s favourite quotes that has helped him with his career is from U.S. motivational speaker, Jim Rohn: ‘Learn to work harder on yourself than you do on your job. If you work hard on your job, you can make a living, but if you work hard on yourself, you’ll make a fortune.’
For Jacob, the quote goes to the heart of his own personal and professional development.
“Life is a constant work in progress. You should always strive to keep learning and growing. And overtime, through that process, it will lead to good outcomes. That’s the reason I undertook the CFP® Certification Program – to keep learning, to keep growing and to keep developing.
“And just because I’ve graduated from university and successfully completed the CFP® Certification Program, it doesn’t mean I’ve finished. Instead, it’s just the start. You have to keep learning, growing and really working hard on yourself to continue to improve,” he says.
“It’s all about the journey. That’s what provides you with the most value in life.”
The Gwen Fletcher Memorial Award
The Gwen Fletcher Memorial Award was established in 2014 in memory of Gwen Fletcher AM, who was considered by many to be the ‘first lady’ of financial planning.
The award honours in perpetuity the memory of Gwen Fletcher, and supports one of her key legacies in her lifelong endeavours to champion the vital role of education and its central importance in nurturing the financial planning profession.
Gwen Fletcher was not only a respected financial planner but also an educator and mentor, and helped shape the industry into an emerging profession. She was also responsible for bringing the CFP® Mark to Australia in 1990.
The Gwen Fletcher Memorial Award is presented each semester to the highest achieving student in the CFP® Certification Unit, which covers all three required assessments in the CFP® Certification Program.
As part of the award, recipients receive a certificate of recognition, a complimentary ticket for the FPA Professionals Congress and $1,000, which is funded by the FPA.